(CCCB) On July 21, a group of thirty men and women began a canoe pilgrimage of some 800 kilometers, inspired by the Calls for Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

They departed from the historic sites of Sainte-Marie among the Hurons and the Canadian Martyrs Shrine in Midland, Ontario, and arrived on 15 August, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the First Nations community of Kahnawake, near Montreal, which is also the home of the Shrine of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha and where she is buried.

Following the traditional trading route used by the First Nations, as well as the 17th-century Jesuit missionaries and the early European explorers, including Samuel de Champlain, the canoeists have travelled through Georgian Bay, the French River, Lake Nipissing, and then the Mattawa and Ottawa Rivers, and will finish on the Saint Lawrence River.

Working in collaboration with their project manager, Jesuit seminarian Erik Sorensen, the participants are from different parts of the country, representing various Aboriginal groups, religious communities and other organizations.

Along their pilgrimage route, the canoeists are being greeted by local parish and Aboriginal communities as well as communities of religious life. Upon their arrival in Gatineau, on 9 August, they were welcomed by the Most Reverend Roger Ébacher, Archbishop Emeritus of Gatineau, on behalf of Archbishop Paul-André Durocher. The next day, the Most Reverend Terrence Prendergast, S.J., Archbishop of Ottawa, welcomed them to Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica for a Eucharistic celebration and a meal, followed by a talk by the Jesuit historian Father Jacques Monet on the history of the route they are following.

The canoe pilgrimage is receiving considerable media coverage, has its own bilingual website, and can be followed through a Facebook page.

Read our special topic on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission here